Liberty Schools Cabernet Sauvignon comes primarily from the east side of Paso Robles, prime Cabernet country, with the added complexity of a few west side sources. Drawing on multiple vineyardsusually about a dozen each yearallows the winemaking team to take advantage of different soils, micro-climates, clones and rootstocks to create a harmonious, balanced, rounded final product.
Decisions about when to pick are made in the vineyard based on taste, on the retention of good acidity, and on potential tannin structure, not just on the level of sugar in the ripening grapes. After destemming and crushing, each lot of grapes goes to a separate fermenter, spending two days at about 60ºF before the onset of fermentationa slow start to preserve fruit intensity.
Several different yeast strains are used each year, along with some fermentations kicked off by the yeasts that naturally come in from the vineyard, adding to the diversity of the wines down the road. Fermentations are warm, with the must getting up to between 80º and 90ºF to achieve full extraction of flavors and colors from the skins. Juice is pumped over the floating cap of grape skins to facilitate extraction; the timing and frequency of pump-overs is determined by tasting the wine, not by the time clock.
Choosing when to press the grapes depends mainly on how the tannin structure is developing; some lots might be pressed before the wine is entirely dry, some may wait through a period of extended maceration on the skins after the wine is fully dry. In every case, the approach is: taste first, then confirm with testing, then take action.
The free run wine and the wine from pressing are kept separate and after a brief time to settle, all the wine goes to barrel, where the secondary (or malolactic) fermentation is kicked off. The Liberty School Cabernet matures in a mix of French and American oak (and a mix of different cooperages), about 10% of it new oak, for about 12 months before blending and bottling.
The recipe is straightforward: start with an array of good fruit, handle it with basic, no-tricks winemakingand pay attention every step of the way.